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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Immunologic Research

Volume 51, Issue 2-3, December 2011, Pages 195-204.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1007/s12026-011-8251-9. Copyright © Springer


Chronic infections have been a major topic of investigation in recent years, but the mechanisms that dictate whether or not a pathogen is successfully controlled are incompletely understood. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a herpesvirus that establishes a persistent infection in the majority of people in the world. Like other herpesviruses, CMV is well controlled by an effective immune response and induces little, if any, pathology in healthy individuals. However, controlling CMV requires continuous immune surveillance, and thus, CMV is a significant cause of morbidity and death in immune-compromised individuals. T cells in particular play an important role in controlling CMV and both CD4(+) and CD8(+) CMV-specific T cells are essential. These virus-specific T cells persist in exceptionally large numbers during the infection, traffic into peripheral tissues and remain functional, making CMV an attractive vaccine vector for driving "CMV-like" T cell responses against recombinant antigens of choice. However, the mechanisms by which these T cells persist and differentiate while remaining functional are still poorly understood, and we have no means to promote their development in immune-compromised patients at risk for CMV disease. In this review, I will briefly summarize our current knowledge of CMV-specific CD8(+) T cells and propose a mechanism that may explain their maintenance and preservation of function during chronic infection.

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